The development of pancreatic fibrosis is a hallmark of pancreatic disease, yet the pathways of fibrogenesis and associated phosphorylation remain unresolved. Pancreatic stellate cells (PaSC) are key mediators of pancreatic fibrosis. Smoking is an independent risk factor for pancreatic disease. In addition, nicotine, the major toxic component of cigarette smoke is implicated in fibrosis in various cell types.
I aim to investigate the effects of nicotine on the phosphoprotein alterations of PaSC in efforts to identify 1) nicotinc receptor (nAChR) subunits expressed by PaSC and assess their roles in fibrosis, 2) differences in the kinase activity profiles of PaSC ? nicotine, and 3) alterations in protein phosphorylation events in PaSC due to nicotine. I will test the hypothesis that nicotine alters kinase-regulated cellular signaling pathways in PaSC resulting in morphological and functional alterations, which may be precursors of pancreatic disease.
In Specific Aim 1, I will determine the nAChR subtypes involved in nicotine-induced signal transduction in PaSC and their roles in fibrosis. A human PaSC cell line will be incubated with and without nicotine. Western blotting will assess proteins characteristic of PaSC activation and identify nAChR subunits that are present. siRNA will be used to knockdown specific nAChR subunits and assessments will be made using western blotting and MTT-based cell proliferation assays.
In Specific Aim 2, I will determine the kinase profile alterations of nicotine-treated PaSC. Using the Kinase ActivitY Assay for Kinome profiling (KAYAK), I will identify and quantify kinases that are expressed in PaSC upon exposure to nicotine. Western blotting will be used to normalize kinase activity by expression level, if needed.
In Specific Aim 3, I will determine the rapid phosphorylation alterations in PaSC resulting from nicotine treatment. Using global phosphoprotein identification strategies developed and established in the Gygi laboratory (i.e., kinase activity assays, titanium dioxide phosphopeptide enrichment and isobaric tandem mass tag (TMT)-based quantitation), I will determine time-dependent changes in localized phosphorylation sites of PaSC proteins upon nicotine treatment. Validation of the effects will be performed using MTT assays and Western blotting. Upon completion of these aims, I expect to have determined 1) the nAChR subtypes expressed by PaSC, 2) the kinase activity profiles involved in nicotine-induced PaSC cellular alterations, and 3) phosphopeptides unique to either untreated or nicotine-treated PaSC and map the localized phospho-sites under various cellular conditions (i.e., ?nicotine, ?various kinase inhibitors). These data will allow me to determine kinase inhibitors that may counteract the effects of nicotine. This work will have an impact in the field of pancreatic disease and is i accordance with Research Goal 10.2 of the 2008 Recommendations of the National Commission on Digestive Diseases, seeking to investigate the role of smoking and PaSC in fibrosis of the pancreas. The work proposed herein is in line with my long-term goal to understand more clearly the mechanisms of pancreatic disease to develop improved therapies to slow, halt, or ameliorate chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. The proposed work is reflective of the progression from my graduate school work on nicotinic receptors, to my current postdoctoral research searching for pancreatic biomarkers using mass spectrometry, and now to more focused, hypothesis- driven research using state-of-the-art proteomic and phosphoproteomic technologies. Along with the aforementioned research strategy, I have outlined a career development plan which includes teaching (at the Harvard Extension School), attendance and presentation in seminars and national/ international conferences, and coursework (at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health) to enrich my background in cell signaling, pancreatic physiology, and bioinformatics. As an academic institution, Harvard Medical School and its associated hospitals is a hub of scientific research and discovery. My mentor, Dr. Steven P. Gygi, a professor at Harvard Medical School, is a world-renowned mass spectrometrist. Areas of focus in his lab include developing and applying new technologies in the fields of mass spectrometry and proteomics and investigating dynamic responses (e.g., phosphorylation and other post translational modifications) to extraneous cellular perturbations. Dr. Gygi's lab has been well funded via the NIH and industry and his former post-docs and students have acquired positions at high-ranking universities and biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies. As a member of Dr. Gygi's lab, I will have access to the most advanced mass spectrometers and expertise to validate and explore my data. Dr. Gygi is involved in the daily operation of the lab and is readily available as a mentor. I have also chosen consultants and collaborators who are experts in their respective fields and as such will have support beyond a single mentor. In summary, the work proposed herein will not only have an impact on the field of pancreatic disease, but also allow me to grow as an independent scientist. It is my intention to use the results from my proposed work, and extensions thereof to build a solid R01 grant application as I transition into an independent academic position and create my own niche in the fields of mass spectrometry and pancreatic disease.

Public Health Relevance

Pancreatic disease is manifested by the development of pancreatic fibrosis, yet the pathways of fibrogenesis and associated phosphorylation remain unresolved. I will test the hypothesis that nicotine alters kinase cellular signaling pathways in PaSC resulting in morphological and functional alterations, which may be precursors of pancreatic disease. My expectations upon completion of this project this that I will determine 1) the nAChR expressed by PaSC, 2) the kinase activity profiles involved in nicotine-induced PaSC cellular alterations, and 3) localized sites on phosphopeptides unique to untreated or nicotine-treated PaSC.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Application #
Study Section
Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases B Subcommittee (DDK)
Program Officer
Podskalny, Judith M,
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Harvard Medical School
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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